Changing our habits requires education, time, and dedication. Just a few years ago I would get annoyed by the 5-cent plastic bag fee at the supermarket. Today, I get annoyed when they offer me plastic bags at all. That’s a huge change, and all it took was a change of mindset. While it takes time to change our habits, there are things we can start doing immediately to become more sustainable at home, as you read in Part 1 of this Sustainability Series. Here are six more tips to further reduce our footprint.
Quit Using Plastic Straws!
For such a small tool, plastic straws have major impacts. While it would be ideal to stop using straws altogether, there are alternatives out there. Reusable straws (like silicone, glass, bamboo or stainless steel), edible straws, compostable straws, and paper straws all offer the same functionality of straws, while causing less harm to the planet. Urge local businesses to offer these eco-friendly alternatives and ask your local government to make such alternatives necessary. Either way, stop using plastic straws!
ALWAYS Bring Your Reusable Bag
Plastic bags are similarly detrimental, with beached whales found with 20 pounds of plastic bags in their stomachs. I constantly see photos of turtles and birds choking on plastic. According to the EPA, we use over 300 billion plastic bags annually, which requires 12 million barrels of oil to produce. Single-use plastics are used an average of 15 minutes before being discarded, with only 1% of bags recycled.
Bring your own reusable bag. As simple as that. Not just to grocery stores but anywhere you’d normally leave with a plastic bag. Suggest local stores stop giving plastic bags, encourage family and friends, and educate others. Kroger has set a goal to stop issuing plastic bags, but we still have a long way to go.
When I lived in DC, I rode the metro, bussed, or rode my moped or bicycle everywhere. Otherwise, I took an Uber. Where I live in Richmond, public transit and biking are simply not feasible, but I do my best to plan errands thoughtfully so that I drive less and carpool when possible. At Rivanna, we’re incentivized to carpool or bike. Even without this option, carpooling saves you money on gas, which is always awesome.
Pass on the burger
While half of our team are vegetarians, I’m not one of them. I care deeply about the environment, but I also love a good cheeseburger. Rather than cut out meat entirely, I’ve instead chosen to change my lifestyle. I used to eat burgers several times a week. Now, I consider burgers a special treat. This is something moderate anyone can do– plus, it helps the environment and (bonus) your cholesterol!
Stop by your local hardware store and swap out your lights for LEDs – you’ll see an immediate improvement. The room will be brighter, the bulbs will be safer and last longer, and your electric bill will be reduced. The Dept. of Energy estimates an 80% energy cost-reduction compared to other bulbs.
Save Water when you Brush your Teeth
Our team is lucky to live somewhere that has clean drinking water, but this doesn’t mean we should take advantage. According to the EPA, turning off running water when you brush your teeth can save 8 gallons of water per day. That’s almost 3,000 gallons of water per year (equivalent to 100 loads of laundry!). It’s a simple change of habit, which saves you money and helps conserve water.
Combined with Part 1 of this article, you are now well on your way to having a more sustainable lifestyle. There are even more long-term, bigger changes you can make, so stay tuned for more tips!
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